Asking this question a Japanese friend upon reading this paper recalled her own

Asking this question a japanese friend upon reading

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Asking this question, a Japanese friend, upon reading this paper, recalled her own exper- iences. Though her motherhad been conventional in most other respects, she made her children obentos that did not conform to the prevailing con- ventions. Basic, simple, and rarely artistic, Sawa also noted, in this connection, that the lines of these obentos resembled those by which she was generally raised: as gender-neutral, treated as a person not "just as a girl," and being allowed a margin to think for herself. Today she is an excep- tionally independent woman who has created a life for herself in America,away from homeland and parents, almost entirely on her own. She loves Jap- anese food, but the plain obentos her mother made for her as a child, she is newly appreciative of now, as an adult. The obentos fed her, but did not keep her culturally or ideologically attached. For this, Sawa says today, she is glad. NOTES Acknowledgments The fieldwork on which this article is based was supported by a Japan Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. I am grateful to Charles Piot for a thoughtful reading and use- ful suggestions for revision and to Jennifer Robertson for invit- ing my contribution to this issue. I would also like to thank Sawa Kurotani for her many ethnographic stories and input, and Phyllis Chock and two anonymous readers for the valuable contributions they made to revision of the manuscript. 'As Dorinne Kondo has pointed out, however, these cuisinal principles may be conditioned by factorsof both class and circumstance. Her shitamachi (more traditional area of Tokyo) informants, for example, adhered only casually to this coding and other Japanese she knew followed them more care- fully when preparing food for guests rather than family and when eating outside rather than inside the home (Kondo 1990: 61-2). 2Rice is often, if not always, included in a meal; and it may substantially as well as symbolically constitute the core of the meal. When served at a table it is put in a large pot or electric rice maker and will be spooned into a bowl, still no bigger or predominant than the many other containers from which a person eats. In an obent- rice may be in one, perhaps the largest, section of a multi-sectioned obent- box, yet it will be arranged with a variety of other foods. In a sense rice pro- vides the syntactic and substantial center to a meal yet the presentation of the food rarely emphasizes this core. The rice bowl is refilled ratherthan heaped as in the preformed obent-o box, and in the obentarice is often embroidered, supplemented, and/or covered with other foodstuffs. sJapanese will both endurea high price for rice at home and resist American attempts to export rice to Japan in order to stay domestically self-sufficient in this national food qua cul- tural symbol. Rice is the only foodstuff in which the Japanese have retained self-sufficient production.
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